WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by German Lopez 04.22.2013
Posted In: News, Parking, Budget, City Council at 09:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Democrats endorse candidates, parking petitions scrutinized, Senate to rework state budget

The Democratic Party’s nominating committee announced who it’s supporting for City Council Friday: Greg Landsman, who heads the Strive Partnership and worked for former Gov. Ted Strickland; Shawn Butler, Mayor Mark Mallory’s director of community affairs; Michelle Dillingham, a community activist; and the six incumbents, which include Laure Quinlivan, Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson, P.G. Sittenfeld, Pam Thomas and Wendell Young. The nominations still have to be approved by the Cincinnati Democratic Committee. Petitioners against the city’s parking plan are supposed to get their final tally on referendum today, but a new video shows at least some of the petitions may have been signed without a legitimate witness, which are needed to validate a signature. The Hamilton County Board of Elections announced Thursday that petitioners had met the necessary threshold of 8,522 signatures, but the video casts doubts on whether those signatures were legitimately gathered. The city wants to lease its parking assets to help balance the deficit for the next two years and fund development programs around the city (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27), but opponents worry higher parking rates and extended hours will harm the local economy. Here is the embedded video: The Ohio Senate could restore Gov. John Kasich’s tax, school funding and Medicaid plans when it votes on the biennium budget for 2014 and 2015. Kasich’s tax and education funding plans were criticized by Democrats and progressive groups for favoring the wealthy, but the Medicaid expansion, which the Health Policy Institute of Ohio says would expand Medicaid coverage to 456,000 low-income Ohioans and save the state money, was mostly opposed by state Republicans. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget in further detail here. New polling from Quinnipiac University found a plurality of Ohio voters now support same-sex marriage rights — granting promising prospects to Freedom Ohio’s ballot initiative to legalize same-sex marriage in the state this year. An audit on JobsOhio could take months, according to State Auditor Dave Yost’s office. Gov. John Kasich was initially resistant to a full audit, but Yost eventually won out, getting full access to JobsOhio’s financial records. JobsOhio is a privatized development agency that is meant to eventually replace the Ohio Department of Development. In response to not getting a Democratic endorsement for his City Council campaign, Mike Moroski, who was fired from his job at Purcell Marian High School for supporting gay marriage, launched the Human Party. Cincinnati received an “F” for business friendliness in the 2013 Thumbtack.com U.S. Small Business Friendliness Survey from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Embattled attorney Stan Chesley will no longer practice law in Ohio. Chesley, who has been criticized for alleged misconduct, was recently disbarred in Kentucky. He recently resigned from the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees after being asked to in a letter from fellow board members. Ohio gas prices are shooting back up. PopSci has an infographic showing sharks should be much more scared of humans than humans should be afraid of sharks.
 
 
by German Lopez 04.19.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Parking, Terrorism at 09:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
dzhokhar tsarnaev

Morning News and Stuff

Boston violence continues, parking referendum moves forward, House budget bill passes

Boston and surrounding communities went through another night of terror and chaos last night, with the two Boston Marathon bombing suspects allegedly rampaging through the city just hours after their photos were released to the public by authorities. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the suspects, died after apparently suffering multiple wounds from a police shootout and what’s now believed to have been an explosion, but his brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, remains at large while a massive manhunt is underway. Authorities are telling people in Boston and the surrounding area to stay indoors as the manhunt continues. Opponents of the city’s plan to lease its parking assets to the Port Authority gathered enough petitions to put the issue on the ballot this November. The news comes as a huge blow to local officials who supported the plan to help balance the budget for the next two years and fund development projects around the city. Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. previously warned that without the parking plan the city will have to lay off cops and firefighters. Before approving the budget bill in a 61-35 vote, the Ohio House voted to remove an amendment from the bill that would have banned comprehensive sex education in a 76-19 vote yesterday, which CityBeat covered in further detail here. Still, the budget bill contains language that would defund Planned Parenthood and redirect other funding to abstinence-only, anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers. The budget bill was also amended to ask for a Medicaid waiver that give Ohio more time to mull over a Medicaid expansion and could lead to a revamp of the state-backed health care program. The budget bill must now be approved by the Ohio Senate and Gov. John Kasich. Ohio’s unemployment rate was 7.1 percent in March, unchanged from February’s revised rate and a small drop from 7.4 percent in March 2012. The number of people unemployed rose by 1,000, while the amount of people employed dropped by 20,400. March was also a weak month for the U.S. jobs report, so Ohio’s numbers may be following a nationwide slowdown. Jobs in manufacturing, mining and logging, financial activities and trade, transportation and utilities increased, while other areas dropped by varying degrees. Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and Mayor Mark Mallory still support the streetcar project, touting its economic benefits to the city. Still, Qualls told CityBeat Wednesday that she wants to have a “very robust public conversation” about the project with the public and city officials to see how it can move forward. On the two-year anniversary of his death, the lawsuit for David “Bones” Hebert has been expanded to include the city of Cincinnati and three Cincinnati Police officers. Since he was killed by police in 2011, Bones has built a following that wants to bring what they perceive as justice to his death. A state representative announced he will run against Ohio Sen. Rob Portman in 2016 because of Portman’s vote against a federal gun control bill.  State Rep. Bob Hagan wrote on Facebook, ”Senator Portman shows his lack of courage and testicular fortitude. The NRA Owns him. I am declaring my candidacy for US Senate to run against him in the next election. I will be his hair shirt for the next three years.” A poll from The New York Times and CBS found about 92 percent of Americans support universal background checks, the major policy proposal in the gun control bill. A new app allows Icelanders to make sure their hookups don’t qualify as accidental incest.
 
 

GOP Medicaid Threat Unites Common Enemies

0 Comments · Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Ohio House Republicans are poised to reject the Medicaid expansion and the $500 million per year in federal funding that would come with it for the next two years.   
by German Lopez 04.15.2013
Posted In: News, Taxes, Budget at 09:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Tax Day today, city layoffs underway, Ohio Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood

Today is Tax Day, which means income tax returns have to be filed by midnight. If you’re in a rush, there are a variety of online tax filing services out there, particularly for state and federal taxes. Cincinnati’s e-filing service can be found here. Cincinnati is outlining the time frame for police, firefighter and other layoffs that the city says it must undertake to balance the budget. The layoffs are currently set for June 9, with layoff letters going out by then. The city administration says the layoffs are necessary because the city’s plan to lease its parking assets has been held up in court and a referendum effort, eliminating the use of parking funds to help balance the budget in time for fiscal year 2014. Opponents say there are alternatives, but Mayor Mark Mallory and the city’s budget gurus recently criticized the suggestions as misleading and unworkable. Ohio House Republicans are once again attempting to defund Planned Parenthood in their latest budget plan, but this time they are also throwing in support for crisis pregnancy centers, which tout abstinence-only education, in a separate part of their budget proposal. The moves have sparked criticism from pro-choice groups around the state that say Republicans are trying to push their morality on women, while anti-abortion groups have praised the budget for enforcing family values and what they claim are more women’s health options. The Medicaid expansion is uniting Gov. John Kasich, Ohio Democrats, mental health advocates and other health experts against the Ohio House Republicans’ budget proposal, which rejects the expansion. Supporters of the expansion point to studies that say the expansion will save the state money, insure nearly half a million Ohioans and help the state’s neediest, but Ohio Republicans say they’re concerned the federal funding backing the expansion will dry up at some point, even though there’s no historical precedent of the federal government failing to meet its Medicaid commitments. State officials are moving to reform Ohio’s foster care system after several deaths were linked to poor oversight and regulations. The Foster Care Advisory Group sent out its suggestions last week, which include removing some rules to “normalize” foster children’s childhoods and eliminating county-by-county funding inequality. Internet sweepstakes cafes have been closed in California and Florida — a move state officials are looking to replicate in Ohio. Ohio gas prices are low this week. A new state license plate design is now available. A new strand of the bird flu is here, and it’s already killed 11 people in China. Scientists have reconstructed the ancestor that came between the human and chimp.
 
 
by German Lopez 04.12.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Health at 11:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover-kasich-2

Medicaid Expansion Unites Common Enemies

Governor, Democrats, mental health advocates criticize Ohio House Republicans’ budget

Ohio House Republicans are poised to reject the Medicaid expansion and the $500 million per year in federal funding that would come with it for the next two years — a move that has united Republican Gov. John Kasich, Ohio Democrats, mental health advocates and other health groups in opposition. The Medicaid expansion is part of a measure in the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) that encourages states to expand their Medicaid programs to include anyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level with the use of federal funds. For the first three years, the federal government would pick up the entire tab for the expansion. After that, payments would be phased down over time so the federal government would be paying 90 percent of costs. Ohio House Republicans oppose the measure because they say they’re worried federal funding will dry up in the future, even though there is no historical precedent of the federal government failing to pay its commitment to Medicaid. Kasich’s proposal for the Medicaid expansion includes an automatic trigger that would immediately stop and retract the expansion if federal funding falls through, but Ohio Republicans previously voiced concerns in hearings that the trigger would hurt Ohioans who have become accustomed to government-provided health insurance without any plan to make up for the lost coverage. A report from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio found the expansion would help insure 456,000 Ohioans by 2022 and save the state money in the next decade by producing economic growth and shifting health-care expenses from the state to the federal government. For advocates of mental health and addiction treatments, Ohio House Republicans’ rejection of the Medicaid expansion and other budget items means mental health and addiction services will miss out on $627 million per year, according to a report from the Office of Health Transformation. Ohio House Republicans’ budget plan would include $50 million more annual funding for mental health and addiction services, but that’s also not enough to make up for the $140 million in annual funds cut around the state since 2002 and the $17 million being cut over two years through the dissolution of the tangible personal property tax replacement funds. Cheri Walter, chief executive officer of the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities (OACBHA), says the Medicaid expansion is a great opportunity to emphasize mental health services around the state. “On the mental health side, ... sometimes it can take two or more years for someone to get a disability determination that makes them Medicaid eligible,” she says. “In addition to making more people Medicaid-eligible, it will speed up the process for many others.” Walter says for addiction patients in particular, getting access to health services can be difficult because alcoholism and other forms of addiction are not technically disabilities. By including more income levels in the Medicaid program, less people will fall through the cracks, she says.OACBHA was one of the many groups that rallied at the Ohio Statehouse Thursday in support of the Medicaid expansion. The crowd, which received support from Ohio Democrats and Kasich, was estimated to reach 2,500. Until the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare, the Medicaid expansion was required, but the court ruled that states must be allowed to opt in and out. The Medicaid expansion was one of the few parts of Kasich’s budget plan that Democrats and progressives approved, while the two other major proposals in Kasich’s plan — school funding and a tax cut proposal — were criticized for disproportionately benefiting wealthy Ohioans (“Smoke and Mirrors,” issue of Feb. 20).
 
 
by German Lopez 04.11.2013
Posted In: News, Privatization, Health, Streetcar at 09:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
health transparency

Morning News and Stuff

Health-care transparency is low, Medicaid expansion to stand alone, streetcar job approved

In Cincinnati, an ankle MRI can range in price from $367.46 to $2,865.42, but weak transparency laws make it difficult for consumers to compare prices. But to make up for the lack of transparency, some companies are providing compiled price and quality data to paying employers. A previous report from Catalyst for Payment Reform and the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute gave 29 states an “F” for health-care price transparency, Ohio and six other states a “D” and only New Hampshire and Massachusetts an “A.”Ohio House Republicans killed Gov. John Kasich’s Medicaid expansion plan, but Ohio Democrats are planning to introduce the expansion as a standalone bill. The expansion, which was one of the few aspects of Kasich's budget that Democrats supported, would have saved the state money and insured 456,000 Ohioans by 2022, according to the Health Policy Institute of Ohio. CityBeat covered the Medicaid expansion and other aspects of Kasich’s budget proposal here. In two 5-4 votes yesterday, City Council approved the executive director position for the streetcar project and a repeal on a “double dipping” ban. The city says it needs the measures to hire John Deatrick, the current manager of The Banks project, to head the streetcar project, but critics argue the city should not be making hires when it’s threatening to lay off 189 cops and 80 firefighters to balance the budget — even though the hire is through the capital budget used for the streetcar project, not the general fund that is used to employ cops and firefighters. CityBeat wrote more about the new position and the double dipping ban here. This week’s commentary from CityBeat: “Religious Birth Control Exemptions Are a Double Standard.” City Council also approved the Music Hall lease, which will enable extensive renovations. CityBeat covered some of the original details of the renovation plan when it was first announced here. StateImpact Ohio has some information on how Ohio House Republicans’ plan for school funding differs from Kasich’s proposal. The big difference is Kasich’s plan was based on property taxes, which ended up being regressive, while the House plan is based on the average cost to educate each student, which makes it so less schools, particularly poor and rural schools that fell under Kasich’s plan, have their funding reduced. The House plan also expands performance-based pay and school choice, which Policy Matters previously found may hurt students and teachers. CityBeat covered Kasich’s proposal in further detail here. Policy Matters Ohio posted an interactive map showing the county-by-county benefits of a state earned income tax credit. The credit, which mostly benefits low- and middle-income earners with children, is already used by the federal government and some states to progressively reward employment. Freedom Ohio and Equality Ohio will debate the Family Research Council today over whether Ohio should legalize same-sex marriage. The debate will be streamed here. CityBeat covered Freedom Ohio’s same-sex marriage legalization efforts here. The U.S. Postal Service will drop its threats to stop delivering on Saturdays after Congress denied the action. A new study found humans tend to think strangers are staring at them. Headline: “Why Are Monkey Butts So Colorful?”
 
 
by German Lopez 04.10.2013
Posted In: Health, News, Budget, Courts at 09:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover-kasich-2

Morning News and Stuff

House reworks Kasich budget, pro-choice group criticizes budget, city asks for stay on ruling

Ohio House Republicans released their own budget proposal yesterday that does away with many of Gov. John Kasich’s proposed policies. The budget gets rid of the Medicaid expansion, the oil and gas severance tax and the sales tax expansion. It also reduces the state income tax cut to 7 percent, down from 20 percent in Kasich’s plan. The amount of schools getting no increased funding under a new school funding formula decreased from 368 in Kasich’s plan to 175 in the House plan, addressing issues that selective wealthy schools were benefiting too much from Kasich’s proposed school funding formula. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget proposal in detail here. NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio is criticizing the Ohio House’s proposed budget for defunding Planned Parenthood and redirecting federal funds to anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs). A study from NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, which is highly supportive of abortion rights, found 47 percent of CPCs gave inaccurate medical information regarding a link between mental health problems and abortion, and 38 percent provided false information about the connection between breast cancer, infertility and abortion, among other findings. The city of Cincinnati is asking Judge Robert Winkler to stay his previous ruling so the city can use emergency clauses to expedite legislation. City Solicitor John Curp says the city needs emergency clause powers in case of natural disasters and to advance economic development deals that need to be implemented before 30 days. The city previously used emergency clauses to avoid a 30-day waiting period for implementing laws, but Winkler ruled the clauses do not nullify the right to referendum, effectively eliminating the use of emergency clauses because the city now always has to wait 30 days in case of a referendum effort. The ruling was given after City Council used an emergency clause to expedite the lease of the city’s parking assets to the Port Authority to help balance deficits and fund economic development. With the support of Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, City Council is looking to study youth poverty, homelessness and other issues to better prioritize city policy. The $175,000 study, which will be mostly privately funded, will look at multiple factors affecting the city’s youth, including crime, poverty, homelessness and educational opportunities. Simpson says the study will be the first comprehensive look at the city’s youth. Democratic Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown’s bill to end Too Big to Fail was leaked to the press Friday, and The Washington Post has an analysis on what it does here. While the bill doesn’t explicitly break up big banks, it does severely limit big banks in a way that may encourage them to downsize. Brown will co-sponsor the bill with Republican La. Sen. David Vitter, making it a bipartisan compromise. CityBeat covered Brown’s efforts in further detail here. Ky. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign is complaining someone bugged a meeting to listen in on staff’s plans for the 2014 election. Jesse Benton, campaign manager for McConnell, said in a statement, “Today’s developments ... go far beyond anything I’ve seen in American politics and are comparable only to Richard Nixon’s efforts to bug Democratic Party Headquarters at the Watergate 40 years ago.” During the meeting, McConnell’s staff alluded to labeling potential opponent Ashley Judd as “unbalanced” by bringing up past mental health problems. Meanwhile, recent polling found McConnell is no lock for re-election. As the media ramps up fears of another Korean war, many analysts feel there is no chance of war. Meanwhile, South Koreans seem more bored than concerned with the North’s threats. Scientists discovered evidence of “dark lightning,” which may emanate from thunderstorms alongside visible lightning.
 
 
by German Lopez 04.09.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Streetcar, Health care at 08:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
todo_casino_jf2

Morning News and Stuff

Local casino tops revenue, streetcar could get new director, Medicaid expansion to fail

Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino topped state casino revenues last month, translating to $1.4 million in casino tax revenue for the city in March. If the trend holds — a huge if, considering March was opening month for the Horseshoe Casino — the city would get $16.8 million a year, which would be above previous estimates from the state and city but below estimates presented in mayoral candidate John Cranley’s budget plan. Cranley and other city officials say casino revenue could be used to avoid laying off cops and firefighters to balance the budget, but the city manager’s office says it wouldn’t be enough.Two City Council decisions yesterday will allow the current project manager for The Banks to take over the streetcar project. The two 5-4 decisions from City Council came in the middle of a tense budget debate that could end with the layoff of 344 city employees, including 189 cops and 80 firefighters. But John Deatrick, who could be hired as executive director of the streetcar project as a result of the measures, says his salary would come from the capital budget, which is separate from the general fund that needs to be balanced in light of structural deficit problems. House Republicans are poised to reject Gov. John Kasich’s proposed Medicaid expansion. The expansion, which was part of Kasich’s 2014-2015 budget proposal, would have saved the state money and insured 456,000 Ohioans by 2022, according to the Health Policy Institute of Ohio. But it would have done so mostly with federal funds, which state legislators worry will not be there years down the line. The Medicaid expansion was one of the few aspects of Kasich’s budget that state Democrats supported. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget in further detail here. PolitiFact Ohio gave Kasich a “Pants on Fire” rating for his claim that his transportation budget and Ohio Turnpike plan “would make sure we have lower tolls than we’ve had through the history of the turnpike.” PolitiFact explains: “Yes, the bill aims to keep tolls from rising faster than the pace of inflation -- a practice that would stand in contrast to KPMG’s findings from the past 20 years. And, yes, the bill freezes tolls for 10 years on a small, targeted cross-section of turnpike users. But not only are higher tolls a part of Kasich’s plan, they are integral to the concept. The increased revenue will allow the state to issue bonds to finance other projects. Furthermore, the inflation cap is not written into the law, and the state has an out from the local EZ-Pass freeze.” Melissa Wegman will be the third Republican to enter the City Council race. Wegman is a first-time candidate and businesswoman from East Price Hill. She will be joining fellow Republicans Amy Murray and incumbent Charlie Winburn.The struggling Kenwood Towne Place will be renamed Kenwood Collection as part of a broader redesign. One program in President Barack Obama’s budget plan would task NASA with pulling asteroids to our moon’s orbit, where the asteroids could then be studied and mined. The Obama administration says the program will only involve small asteroids, so big, killer asteroids will not be purposely hurled towards Earth. New evidence suggests some two-legged dinosaurs were strong swimmers, further proving that unless we have extra asteroids to cause an extinction event, we might want to leave them dead.
 
 
by German Lopez 03.12.2013
Posted In: Governor, News, Economy, Budget at 09:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Local unemployment rises, FitzGerald to run for governor, tea party protests Medicaid

The region’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate shot up in January, with the City of Cincinnati at 8.6 percent, up from 6.7 percent in December; Hamilton County at 7.9 percent, up from 6.2 percent; and Greater Cincinnati at 8 percent, up from 6.4 percent. The rates were still lower than January 2012, when Cincinnati was at 8.8 percent, Hamilton County was at 8.3 percent and Greater Cincinnati was at 8.5 percent. But the civilian labor force, which measures the amount of people working and looking for jobs, was larger across-the-board in January 2012 than it was in January 2013. Federal and state employment rates are normally adjusted for seasonal factors, but local rates are not. The full data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services can be seen here. Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald launched an “exploratory committee” for a gubernatorial election campaign that intends to unseat Gov. John Kasich. In his announcement video, FitzGerald says state leaders have let down Ohioans and he can provide a better alternative. The Cincinnati Tea Party is protesting Kasich’s plan to expand Medicaid to include anyone up to or at 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The tea party says the expansion, which is financially supported by Obamacare, is financed by the federal government’s debt and creates more long-term problems by failing to address current issues with the U.S. health care system. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio says the Medicaid expansion will save the state money in the next decade and provide health insurance to 456,000 Ohioans by 2022. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget proposal, which includes the Medicaid expansion, in further detail here. Yesterday, Kasich’s administration tried to explain why it did not seek legislative approval before transferring about $6.5 million in taxpayer money to JobsOhio, but it did not provide any evidence for its claim that the grants used do not require legislative approval. State Democrats are getting increasingly critical of the lack of transparency behind JobsOhio, a publicly funded nonprofit agency that Kasich established to eventually replace the Ohio Department of Development. Recently, State Auditor Dave Yost has been pushing to fully audit JobsOhio’s finances, even its private funds, but Kasich and General Assembly Republicans argue the state auditor can only check on public funds. Bipartisan efforts to get rid of traffic cameras are underway, largely because the policy is seen as a money grab, may be unconstitutional and likely to be put to referendum, anyway. A nun, poll worker and widower have been indicted in the Hamilton County Board of Election’s voter fraud case. The board says the charges are only the beginning, and other investigations are ongoing. In order to meet new state standards, Cincinnati will implement safety improvements for pedestrians, including changes to lines separating pedestrian crosswalks and countdowns on more pedestrian signals. The University of Cincinnati is investing $1.6 million in its doctoral programs and accepting proposals to support others to show how it would result in better faculty, student research productivity, recruitment, retention of top students and ability to leverage extended funding. With yesterday’s approved changes to the state’s transportation budget, Ohio could be moving to a 70 mile-per-hour speed limit soon. A dad hacked the game Donkey Kong to allow his daughter to play a heroine instead of Mario. With a new artificial intelligence app that tweets even after a person dies, mortality is no longer a concern for retaining Twitter followers.
 
 
by German Lopez 03.06.2013
at 10:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
downtown grocery

Morning News and Stuff

Council to vote on parking, hospitals push Medicaid expansion, MSD upgrades coming

City Council will vote today on the controversial plan to lease Cincinnati’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority. The plan would give up some control over the city’s parking meters and garages to generate revenue to fund downtown development projects and help balance the deficit for the next two years. Before the City Council vote, City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. will hold a presentation on solving Cincinnati’s long-term structural deficit problems, which Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan said was a remaining concern even if the parking plan passed. CityBeat previously covered the parking plan here, the city manager’s and John Cranley’s alternatives here, Councilman Chris Seelbach’s alternative here and the Budget and Finance Committee vote on the plan here. Hospital groups are telling lawmakers that the Medicaid expansion is “necessary” to preserve facilities that will face big cuts in the next year. Under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), hospitals will lose funding from the federal government, but the cuts were supposed to be made up with the prospect of more customers. If the state doesn’t expand Medicaid, the hospitals will still lose funding, and they won’t get many of their potential new customers. As part of Obamacare, the federal government is carrying the full cost of the expansion for the first three years. After that, the federal government’s share is brought down to 95 percent and ultimately phased down to 90 percent. By some estimates, the Medicaid expansion would save Ohio money by shifting costs from the state to the federal government and generate more revenue through increased economic security. Gov. John Kasich suggested the expansion in his budget proposal, which CityBeat covered here. Cincinnati and cities all around the nation are facing new federal requirements to update sewer systems to better handle stormwater runoff, which can mix with sewage and spill into rivers. Tony Parrott, executive director of the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD), says his agency has developed software to prioritize upgrade projects and make them more efficient. CityBeat previously covered some of MSD’s efforts here. A bill sponsored by Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, would limit the window for collecting additional signatures for a state ballot initiative to 10 days if the secretary of state deems the initial petition signatures short of minimum requirements. Seitz says the bill will eliminate a loophole that allows politically motivated petitioners to extend and abuse the state’s petitioning process, and Secretary of State Jon Husted says the bill “is on the right track.” Opponents are calling the bill “punitive” and saying it will weaken Ohioans’ rights to take up ballot initiatives and referendums. Supporters of Internet sweepstakes parlors are saying that a state ban on the establishments would be unconstitutional and would potentially face litigation. Luther Liggett, an attorney representing Internet Sweepstakes Association of Ohio, said a Toledo appeals court ruling found Internet cafe games are not gambling because the outcome is predetermined. He also said a ban would violate constitutional protections against retroactively negating contracts, which internet cafes hold with employees, real estate owners and computer vendors. Greater Cincinnati Walmart stores are installing rooftop solar panels as part of the retailer’s nationwide green initiative to completely power all its stores with renewable energy. The arrays on 12 Ohio Walmart stores will generate enough electricity to power 820 homes year-round and eliminate carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to the output of 1,152 cars. The University of Cincinnati could get $30 million as a result of the reported settlement with seven schools breaking away from the Big East to form their own non-football conference. The average American severely underestimates how bad wealth inequality is, according to a YouTube video that went viral over the weekend. If the inequality trend is truly downplayed, that could have bad repercussions for Ohio: A previous report from the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found Ohio’s income gap — the income difference between the rich and poor — is wide and growing, and low-income and middle-income Ohioans have actually seen their incomes drop since the 1990s. How did you fare in the aftermath of the winter storm yesterday? Some southwest Ohio areas were reporting widespread power outages. Indiana lawmakers are considering changes to their state’s casinos to make them more competitive with Cincinnati’s newly opened Horseshoe Casino and other Ohio establishments. The Indiana Senate already passed a bill that would allow riverboat casinos to move on shore and racinos to replace electronic game tables with live dealers. The bill is now going to the Indiana House for approval. A gay couple was kicked out of a California mall for holding hands and kissing. Apparently, the security officer who kicked the couple out paid very close attention to the make-out session; in a recording, the officer said that he counted the couple kissing 25 times. A new study suggested Europa, Jupiter’s moon, could have salt water on its surface, which would be good for potential extraterrestrial life.
 
 

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